How three black organizations led by trans people are transforming housing for the transgender community

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Homelessness is one of the many layers of oppression that trans women of color face. Often, black trans women who try to avoid being homeless are forced to stay in abusive households and relationships, says Kayla Gore, founder of My sister’s house, an organization that works to alleviate the problem of homelessness for marginalized groups by building mini-homes. “Violence is steadily increasing among black trans women, especially due to the lack of access to safe and gender-friendly housing,” Gore said. Beautiful House. “Many trans people remain in domestic violence[-filled] relationships because there are no organizations that [housing] to trans people.

This reality, coupled with the rise of anti-trans rhetoric resulting from recent legislative disagreements, has made it difficult for many trans women of color to secure housing. The Trump administration had refused to fully implement the 2012 Equal access rule, which demanded that shelters remain “open to all eligible individuals and families regardless of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status,” and even proposed a rule that “would have allowed programs and shelter operators to subject transgender people to intrusive investigation and denial of accommodation and subject them to further harassment, ”according to one April press release from the US Department of
Housing and urban development. (This proposal was ultimately withdrawn in the Biden administration.)

About 42% of transgender people experience some form of homelessness in their lifetime, according to 2015 United States Transgender Survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality, which interviewed 27,715 people to compile the report.

My Sishta’s House is one of many black and trans led nonprofits leading the way for housing equity in the trans community. Other organizations include the Chicago Brave Space Alliance and the Sisters PGH, based in Pittsburgh. Together they stand, against all odds, in the hope of making sure that everyone in their community has a place to call home.

Small houses have a bright future

Gore founded My sister’s house Alongside co-founder Illyahnna Wattshall five years ago, while working at an LGBTQ center in Memphis, Tennessee, they noticed how many of their clients faced homelessness. The couple started the effort by simply hosting trans women in need of their own personal space, and Gore tells HB that at the time, she didn’t expect the organization to grow as big as it was. it is now. My Sistah’s House has grown so much that it is now building 20 mini-homes for trans women in urgent need of housing.

Why build mini-houses? Gore says she believed that creating small houses, rather than larger traditional houses, would be a more cost-effective way to alleviate the problem of homelessness within the trans community. “We wanted to make a permanent decision on homelessness in our community and increase home ownership among blacks. [trans] people, by building tiny homes in a community land trust ”, she explains. But as she would find out later, building a small house can cost almost as much as building a traditional house.

Gore and members of My Sistah’s House outside a small house.

My sister’s house

Having tremendous control over the design is something Gore loves about building tiny homes. Planning is done with the approval of the Housing Justice Committee, as well as members of the My Sistah’s House community. “Our members were able to move furniture, move walls, put windows in different spaces to see what kind of effect [they’ll have]”says Gore.” Because they or they are going to be the locals, so we want them to be involved throughout [design] to treat.”

Gore’s work to transform living space has certainly not gone unnoticed. She was recently featured in a National Geographic series hosted by Gal Godot, titled Impact. And she reached $ 340,387 in donations through her GoFundMe page. But Gore knows that this is only the beginning of the search for a permanent solution to homelessness in the transgender community.

The importance of black trans women in leadership positions

For founder LaSaia Wade of Courageous Space Alliance, the first Black and Trans-led LGBTQ center on the South Side of Chicago, black trans women have long been expected to be portrayed in leadership roles. Prior to founding Brave Space Alliance in 2017, Wade had applied for several different positions in organizations and nonprofits, but was ultimately turned down for each. “I think they didn’t want to take the risk of hiring a smart trans [Black] woman, because they didn’t think I was going to let them run over me, which is true, ”she explains. “So I think for me it was imperative to really focus on creating a different power structure.”

Brave Space Alliance now serves an average of 50 transgender and maverick people per day, providing them with food, resources and other basic needs. Last year, their pantries around Chicago helped feed more than 200,000 people.

Wade herself experienced homelessness for a season of her life, during which she was denied access to a homeless shelter that housed trans women. This is what prompted her to hide her trans identity at the time. It was then that she realized that once on her feet, she would do anything in her power to make sure that other trans women of color didn’t have to go through what. she has lived.

courageous members of the space alliance
Members of the Brave Space Alliance during an unveiling of a mural.

Evan cain

In 2023, the Brave Space Alliance will launch the Lucy Hick Anderson Housing Program, named after one of the first documented black transgender women. The organization will purchase two separate housing complexes to facilitate the program. One will be reserved for trans women and trans women, while the other will be reserved for transmasculine and trans men. The program is intended to provide LGBTQ + members 18 years of age or older with access to stable housing and career building support for a period of 18 months.

“[With this program] I hope to create a space where trans people are able to not hide their trans identity, but instead they are able to push themselves in any way they want, “ said Wade.

Generational wealth creation and home ownership in the trans community

Ciora Thomas started PGH sisters in 2013 after starting to reflect on her own past experiences with homelessness, child sex trafficking and drug addiction. Based in Pittsburgh, the organization works to help local trans and non-binary people with resources for employment opportunities, mental health support and emergency housing needs.

Thomas started Project T, a transitional housing program, at the end of 2020, after purchasing a property a year earlier. Through this program, trans women who experience chronic homelessness are offered the opportunity to have free housing while waiting to find a job within the first month of moving in. During their stay at Project T, resources will be offered to them. this will help them find stable employment, learn the basics of budgeting, and develop cooking skills, which will help them create a secure income and life after the program. Thomas adds that the program is not just a temporary housing plan, but something meant to increase homeownership rates for black trans women overall.

“I think the most important thing is that we are creating landlords and making black trans women homeowners… It’s time to own our own land; it’s time to own our home and build generational wealth for our community, ”says Thomas vehemently.

sisters pgh members painting a railing
Thomas and Project T members / tenants paint a wheelchair ramp that was recently added to the house.

PGH sisters

Making progress towards generating generational wealth in the black trans community is no easy task. Especially when about 34% of black trans women earn less than $ 10,000 a year, according to a report from the National LGBTQ Task Force. It is more than twice the rate we see happening for transgender people of all races, and 8 times the rate that we see for the general population.

Despite this, Thomas believes she has the “blueprint” for this change to happen. “My plan is built. And [Project T ] going to have more homes in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. And then we were going to expand across the country, through partnership initiatives, ”she explains.

Currently, she is working on facilitating a program within Project T that will allow members to learn from real estate agents and financial advisors to help them get advice on homeownership and how to increase their credit score. . Once they have completed this mentorship and / or classes, she plans to help them raise funds to put a down payment on the home of their choice.

On why it is so important to have a home or a place of refuge as black trans women, Thomas reflects on and says, “If one of us has a home, then we all have one.”

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